This giant cauldron project is a bit of a beast! But I promise… while it may look like a lot of work, it’s actually very easy. It’s just the drying times that make it a bit long, so if you want to make one in time for this Halloween, you’ll need to get cracking! It’s worth mentioning that I made this project during the summer. Now that things are cooling down you may find the drying stages take a little longer, so do make sure you give yourself plenty of time.
Have you ever seen a Cauldron Creep? It’s a lifesize animation that stirs a giant cauldron and it seems every cool haunted prop maker has mastered one. I confess my imagination has been well and truly captured, so I thought I’d try my hand at making the cauldron so I could convert it once I find my animatronics feet.
Anyone out there need a willing pupil?
During one of my many Pinterest-stalking sessions, I came across a brilliant cauldron DIY by Halloween Forum Member Old Man Bakke. Bakke’s creation calls for a cauldron made entirely from scratch which I’ll admit, had me in a bit of a tizzy. Thankfully, just as I was about to start cutting up cardboard I discovered the perfect upcycle.
It even had ready-made handles!
At £24.99 this metal planter from HomeSense wasn’t cheap, but it was the perfect size and shape for my giant cauldron. And frankly, it saved me a SHED load of time and effort that for me, is worth £25 any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
Clearly, the green finish and embossed leaves weren’t going to cut it, but that’s where I come in. It was also missing the all-important cauldron rim, so I gathered a few supplies and went to work transforming a garden planter into a giant cauldron fit for any witch’s kitchen.
What I used to make a Giant Cauldron
- Cauldron Planter – HomeSense
- Pipe lagging – B&Q
- Old plastic tub
- Mâche Paste (see below)
- Yacht Varnish – B&Q
- Black Spray Paint – Wilko
- Instant Oatmeal – x1 box of individual packs
- Something to mix ingredients – I used an old chopstick
- Expanding Foam
- Rust-Oleum Stone Textured Finish Spray Paint in Black Granite – B&Q
Optional styling supplies:
- Cushion filler
- Flickering tealight candles
- Philips Huego portable light – Amazon
- Rattan Wreath/s – Hobbycraft
- Flame Bulb – Amazon
How to make a Giant Cauldron from a planter
1. Create the rim
If your planter doesn’t already have a rim you’ll need to make one. I made mine by glueing on a length and a half of pipe lagging. Simple!
I first discovered the versatility of this stuff when I was making the light up skull prop. You may also remember it formed part of my Skull Lamp IKEA Hack. With a join down its length that’s really easy to prise apart, it was a doddle creating that iconic shape the cauldron desperately needed.
2. Cover the planter with Papier-Mâché
I mâchéd everything except the bottom. I truly have no idea whether this was the best way to achieve the look I was going for but I felt it would a) cover the embossing and b) help integrate the new rim as part of the cauldron.
It worked a charm on both counts!
Now I’m no expert; I think the last time I did any papier-mâché was in primary school, so I had to do some research. It seems there are a ton of ways to go about it, so I went with what felt right for me.
With several mâché projects in mind, I’d already bought a large 2.5l pot of PVA Adhesive and Sealant from Wilko (£10), which I used to glue the first layer of newspaper to the planter. Then I used it to make mâché paste for the subsequent layers.
Making Mâché Paste
To make the mâché paste, I watered down some PVA in a plastic tub and added a little flour. There was no weighing or measuring; I just eyeballed it, mixed it together, put it in the microwave for 30 seconds and mixed it again to smooth out the lumps.
Oh, don’t ask! It was just one of many tips I picked up on YouTube.
Apparently, the best finish comes from dipping strips of newspaper into the paste, then smoothing them onto your project with your fingers. This also allows you to rub out any remaining lumps and ensure you get any of the good stuff that sinks to the bottom of the tub.
I have to say, it was very therapeutic! Messy… but fun!
Having not read a newspaper in years, I had to put a call out for donations and the neighbours came through in spades. Even after the Giant Cauldron, the OneandSeventy newspaper mountain still stands at least 2ft high!
I predict more mâché projects in my future!
3. Seal your Mâché
I left the mâché to dry overnight before applying a layer of yacht varnish to seal it.
Once the varnish was dry (a heatwave comes in quite handy!), I spray-painted the cauldron in a regular black paint.
Now it was ready to decorate.
4. Add Texture
Even painted black, the mâché was really obvious – it needed some sort of texture. So loosely following Bakke’s tutorial, I mixed together 5 packets of Instant Oatmeal with PVA Adhesive. Again, I went with my gut – I poured the oatmeal into an old plastic bowl, covered it in glue, added a dash of water (literally a DASH), and stirred it until it was a “clay-like” consistency.
Using a trowel, I applied the oatmeal and glue mixture to the cauldron and let it dry. Not only did it provide the texture I was looking for, it also covered the mâché.
5. Add Paint Effects
When it was rock hard, I spray-painted the cauldron with a black granite paint for a little more texture in between the oatmeal, then gave it another coat of varnish.
The next day, I took a mixture of masonry and acrylic paints and dry-brushed a few areas before adding what’s fast becoming my favourite secret rust ingredient. My vision was a rusty old metal cauldron that looked like it had been sitting for 300 years awaiting the return of the Sanderson Sisters.
“It looks like it’s been out in the garden for years.”
Yep, that’ll do. Thanks Beloved!
I ummed and arred about another coat of varnish, but Old Man Bakke’s words came to haunt me “seal, seal, SEAL”! And having used acrylic paint and faux rust, I thought it was a good idea. So on went a third coat.
6. Make your cauldron bubble
Next up in my epic giant cauldron project was to make the cauldron look a little more authentic with bubbles, mist and lights.
Because what is Halloween without a bubbling cauldron?!
Cauldron Bubbles made from Expanding Foam
I wanted it to look like whatever nasty spell was being cooked up in there had leaked over the sides. This was really easy to do by adding Expanding Foam (or Great Stuff, as it’s known across the pond) around the rim. There are various ways of doing this, so I stalked YouTube for a bit and went to work.
When using expanding foam, you need to protect yourself (gloves and goggles) and your surfaces. Sitting the cauldron on a large piece of cardboard helps catch the drips as they invariably fall. I later peeled these off and painted them up to use as spillages around the cauldron. A brilliant piece of detail suggested by one of the fab guys in the über friendly UK Halloween Prop Making group on Facebook.
And you know how much I love detail. After all, it’s apparently where the Devil lives.
DIY faux mist without a fog machine
Ideally, I would have loved to use dry ice or a fog machine to make this an authentic-looking witch’s cauldron, but I have to consider where it’s going (in the kitchen) and the safety of OneandSeventy’s Halloween visitors.
A fog machine is just too noisy and dry ice in a room full of kids off their tits on sugar does not a safe environment make! So I messed around with some ideas, including this one, which uses the stuffing from an old cushion to create “steam” and flickering candles to create the glow.
I think it’s quite effective although I think I *may* have gone a little overboard!
Creating Atmospheric Cauldron Lighting
Lights-wise, you can get all sorts these days from places like B&M, The Range, or Poundland. Keep an open mind – you might be able to use fairy lights, remote control bulbs or even lights designed to go in water, like those I used for my DIY Crystal Ball.
Beloved and I are big fans of Philips Hue and recently added to our smart home collection, so I went with one of our portable Huegos, which allows me to change colour on a whim.
Using the Huego also gives me the option to include the cauldron in my Hue Halloween set up.
More on that soon!
DIY Faux Fire
Just as there are several ways to create steam and light, there are also a few ways of making it appear as if your cauldron is sitting on a fire. There’s the glowing embers technique using expanding foam like this tutorial from Eduardo from Monster Tutorials, or you can use twigs and wood with orange led fairy lights.
I didn’t have any orange lights that twinkled, but what I did have was a flame bulb! I’m also bloody lazy, so I used three rattan wreaths from Hobbycraft to sit my cauldron on, which raises it high enough to accommodate the bulb.
Until I decorate the kitchen, I won’t know exactly which of the myriad of options I’ll be using, but I suspect it’ll probably be a mixture of them all. And maybe even some I haven’t thought of yet!
I’m really pleased with this giant cauldron DIY; it’s going to be one of those Halloween props that’ll be hauled out year after year. I hope you like it too. As always, drop a comment below to let me know, or come on over to Facebook or Instagram for more Halloween chat.
A hui hou,
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